I have a favourite coffee place in Mission, BC. The Penny is an amazing cafe that gives back to its community by supporting an outreach program that offers comfort, relationships, support and food to those in need. (In their words from their site.)
Walking inside, it seems like any other cafe. Friendly staff, neighbours who greet one another, and plenty of comfy places to sit.
But there’s something very special about supporting a neighbourhood space that is using its profits to better the situations of those in need.
This last Christmas while there, a neighbourhood Santa stopped in to greet everyone and offer candy canes. He’s been doing this for 33 years!
Everyone in the cafe was thrilled.
I definitely recommend this place if you are ever in Mission. The coffee is great, and they very often have gluten-free treats!
In 2016, I became fascinated by a place in Washington near La Conner called “Fish Town.” This was an area just south of La Conner where, in the 70s, a group of artists rented fishing shacks along the slough where they settled an unofficial town. As the tale goes, these artists wanted to shun modern day convenience for their art and used the slough as a way to get into town for supplies. Years later, the owner of the fishing shacks would sell the land to developers who would clear cut the area and destroy the town.
One day while having lunch in La Conner, I decided that I was going to find Fish Town! Not only does it appear on Google Maps, but it also appeared on my GPS. So I set the coordinates and started to drive. What I discovered was disheartening–an area of land with new homes and no remnants of the rich history of what should have been a historic place.
This is why it worries me that the Fraser Valley Port Authority might one day push the residents of our very own Fish Town off land they’ve been living on for three generations. (Follow link to the bottom of the page.) In Richmond, British Columbia there’s a place called Finn Slough, a “town” of about thirty living in shacks that were built in the late 1800s. (Some have been restored with modern conveniences.)
At the south end of Dyke Road is an off-leash park (watch for coyotes!) that overlooks the Fraser River, Mount Baker, and farmland. A fifteen minute walk will bring you to Diplomat Bakery where you can refuel on coffee and treats.
From the river bank you can walk the shore and see the historic buildings and imagine what it was once like for the original Finnish settlers who built their homes either floating or on wooden stilts. There are still three original Finn families living here, and I often wonder what a conversation with them would be like. (This may happen soon.)
These photographs were taken on two separate days, the cloudier ones in October and the sunnier ones in December. I missed going back here when the snowfall arrived, but I do wish I could have photographed it then.
There’s a bridge over the swampy river that leads to a welcoming bench for people to sit and ponder. To the right and left are private homes with signs requesting respect for their privacy.
Grinfinn enjoyed the tall grass as he explored the area and sniffed all the smells. I didn’t take him off leash, since there are coyotes in the area I wanted to have him close by my side. (Not that he walks fast enough that I couldn’t quickly pick him up.)
2017 had a pretty rough start for me, but it finished extremely strong. When I look back on the year I feel pretty happy about the accomplishments I have made. I’m almost done my lib tech course, I began learning the ukulele, adopted a dog, took some road trips, wrote a new book, started submitting my work to publishers, and I met a really amazing woman.
Here’s a list of my top 12 events. Some have links to longer blog posts or to other sites of interest.
That time Denise Jaden and Eileen Cook asked me to be a part of their summer signing.
9. Digital Services Tech at Richmond Public Library.
That time a part of my job was to create a digitization station for digitizing VHS, LPs, and cassettes. (It now does SO MUCH MORE!)
10. Chosen to be a part of the literacy quilt.
The quilt was 50 feet from my station, and it still took me weeks and weeks to notice I was on it. In fact, it was a patron who asked, “Are you the James McCann that’s on the literacy quilt?” And then when the quilt travelled to another library, I got an email from a coworker who realized I was the author of one of her favourite books as a teen.
11. Family came to visit.
My sister and mom came in July, and my nephew came in September. We took many road trips together and had an absolute blast.
For years I talked about travelling to Hell’s Gate — and not just so I can say I’ve literally been to Hell and back. Hell’s Gate is nestled in the narrowest part of the Fraser River just down from Boston Bar. In 1808, Simon Fraser uttered the phrase, “(it’s) a place where no human should venture, for surely these are the gates of Hell.”
But with my nephew visiting, this seemed the perfect opportunity for a road trip. Grinfinn, Justin, and I all piled in the Jeep, and after a brief stop for lunch and coffee at the Blue Moose in Hope, we headed for Hell’s Gate.
Once at Hell’s Gate, we took the tram to the bottom of the canyon to what was once a mining town. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. The scenery was amazing and in September on a weekday there were no crowds. Hell’s Gate is very dog friendly, so Grinfinn had a great time!
I’ve been on a few trams and found this one especially calm. It was slow and steady with a guide who has a spiel that takes the time from top to bottom to get through. By the time you get to the bottom, you have a pretty good idea of the area’s history and that makes exploring a bit more fun.
You can walk across that red bridge and really get a good view of the river. It’s spectacular.
On the other side of the bridge are train tracks and a bit of a trail. Depending on how much of a hiker you are, you can spend a good day exploring the area. It seemed really uphill, so my nephew and I opted for not going on the hike.
That’s my nephew below looking all pensive over the cliff. Hard to tell in this photo, but he’s got a camera that he took some great photos of during our trip. He was trying to find the perfect shot here.
The day was hot and Grinfinn needed a break. There is a museum of the area’s history that’s air conditioned, so the three of us found our way there and cooled down.
All in all, it’s a remarkable trip there and worth the drive. Go on a nice day, but not when it’s full on heat. If you’re a hiker, take hiking boots. If you’re not a hiker, get the ice cream.
I’m not sure where I was going that day, but like any good road trip I was prepared to find joy anywhere I wound up. I crossed the border from British Columbia to Washington without difficulty, thankful for the sunny day and Grinfinn who seems to just love travelling.
Grinfinn and I took the first turn from I-5 towards Fairhaven, as there’s an Arco on that turnoff with the cheapest gas in Washington. (Usually compares to Costco.) From there, I hit up my favourite lunch place–Avenue Bread and Deli. When the weather is nice, it’s a great place to grab a sandwich and sit on a patio with the dog. Grinfinn even made a friend.
From there I drove the I-5 south, though I wasn’t totally sure where I was headed. I turned my GPS off and just took a few turns until I realized I was pretty turned around. I saw signs for “Arlington,” and decided I’d check it out and see what it was like. Glad I did.
Arlington has about 20 thousand people, and is a pretty place with a strong artistic feel. I took Grinfinn for a walk, and found Legion Memorial Park and an art walk. Cool sculptures along a walkway on a nice day was just what I needed.
There was also an old train station/now visitor information center. I still had a coffee from Avenue Bread, so I parked myself here for an hour and just watched the people as they milled about. Cyclists travelling across the state, families having picnics, and other tourists discovering the park. Grinfinn and I were in bliss.
I knew I was close to La Connor, and so I decided to pass through there on my way back to Canada. Without turning on my GPS I started to drive in the direction that I was pretty sure La Connor was in, and wound up somewhere that felt like another world.
I found this home with art and sculptures and what looks like junk but is probably treasure and had to take a few photos.
I got back on the road and headed towards what I thought must be La Connor. The day was getting very hot, and the sun was really starting to beat down. I came upon a roadside farmer’s market in the middle of nothing but farms, and I pulled over to check it out. I’m glad I did, because they had the best house-made ice cream.
Just in case you’re wondering, I made it to La Connor. I did wind up consulting the GPS and it pointed me in the right direction. I wasn’t too far off, but I never would have found it had I not checked where I was.
In La Connor, I ended my day in a new cafe that had just opened under new management. It had a backyard with lawn chairs and very friendly staff. I can’t recall the name of it now, but when I find it I’ll update the blog.
Al in all, that was a perfect trip. No destination, all day for travel, a dog by my side, and the discovery of a few great spots for coffee, ice cream, and relaxation.
The song that goes through my head as I write this post is by The Cars – MAGIC. Enjoy!